Real Art Ways is working to reward members (hey, that's me!), and to get the word out for the quality, independent films that it brings to town regularly. So tonight, I took advantage of their kind offer, and saw a wonderful film for free!
"Small, Beautifully Moving Parts" is a charming study in relationships, family and technology. Its protagonist, Sarah, is a thoroughly modern young woman. A free spirit technology geek who might be best described as dispassionate, she's more surprised about the high quality font in the disposable pregnancy tester than she is about the word that font spells out - PREGNANT. She's got a supportive partner, does not seem to lack for money or life skills. But a cross country trip (for a baby shower thrown by her sister, a visit to her father, and a quest to find her estranged mother) gives her the opportunity to connect to the little girl she's incubating in a way that the technology in her life is unable to.
It was really interesting and refreshing to see a movie portray our complex, and not always healthy, dependence on technology. Sarah's rental comes equipped with a talking GPS which seems about as much human contact as she can handle initially. She's forever on her iPhone; Skypes with her partner. Her father is carrying on a Skype relationship with a woman from Portugal (after Sarah fixes his firewall problem). There's a short foray to Las Vegas (where Sarah connects with her partner's sister), who loves Las Vegas because it's so authentic and pre-modern (!) - yeah, that was me snorting with laughter. The theme of authenticity in the midst of modernity and technology are woven throughout the film.
As Sarah wanders further from technology in search of her mom, her GPS gives way to maps, her cell service fails and she must rely on a good old fashioned pay phone. It feels like a stripping away of layers. And when she finally finds her mother, it is interesting that, even in a community that eschews technology, human connection remains elusive.
There's a not a lot of high drama or fabricated plot in the film. One would imagine that with a solo trek through the southwest with a baby on the way and a dependence on technology, there might be many opportunities for potential tragedy - car trouble, desert heat, meeting the wrong kind of person. But the filmmaker resists the urge to go for the easy plot device here - it's all understated. Sarah's existential crisis is plot enough. There is a funny Deus ex Machina moment in the film (me laughing out loud, again), and if Sarah does not get what she wants from her mother, she gets what she needs from the journey.
I really liked this film a lot, definitely worth a trip down to Arbor Street when it's in town. It's scheduled to play at Real Art Ways starting June 1.